Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Armed with Love: Perseverance

I had the most sensual experience of my life recently. It was warm, sexy, filled with emotion and it happened in church. Yes, church. It was a typical Sunday morning for Larry and I. We wake up at about 8:30. Church starts at 9, so we were in a rush to get out the door. We arrive a half hour late. Shortly after we took our seats the sermon started. I reached over to hold the hand of my sweetie. Larry looked at my dry and over worked skin. He whispered, "You need lotion." Larry took some lotion out of my purse and rubbed the cream into my tired skin. It felt glorious. My hands soaked up the moisture. I watched as he massaged my hand. Our eyes met. Larry leaned over and whispered, "I'm always going to take care of you." His simple little message brought tears to my eyes. So much love in such a simple act.

Always. Always is the stuff marriages are made of. No relationship can stand the test of time without the promise of Always. On our wedding days we promise to Always be faithful, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part. Always.

As I read through the list of promises, one is missing. It is probably the promise that is most practical for married life. "I promise to always persevere with you through your good days and bad days."

1 Corinthians 13:7 says, "Love always perseveres."

This has been the year of weddings in my community. Even my little sister Elena tied the knot this summer. Watching all the young lovers excitedly make life long promises of  "Always" makes me reflect with love on my own "Always." We decorated Elena's wedding with family wedding photos. I looked at photos of my own special day and remembered how happy Larry and I were. I recalled how beautiful I felt as Larry looked at me as I walked down the isle on my father's arm. We promised "Always." Perseverance is implied, but not truly understood.

The perseverance of  First Corinthians 13:7 is the Greek word hypomeno. Hypomeno is a verb which means to endure, bravely and calmly: ill treatments. Perseverance bears the ill treatments of another bravely and calmly. Wow! This is a very practical characteristic of love. Perseverance puts up with another when they lash out with ugliness, when they say mean things, when they don't treat us right, when they treat us completely wrong!

I know this may be hard to believe (wink,wink), but I can be ugly sometimes. I say mean things when I'm angry. I waste time and avoid housework. I complain about other's behavior that I tolerate in myself. I overreact and treat my husband with an unkindness he does not deserve. I'm glad for love that perseveres. My sweetie perseveres with my ill treatments and shows love when I'm unlovable. That is perseverance. Showing love when others have been unlovable.

As much as I am glad for "hypomeno," it is harder to give than to receive. Perseverance comes into play in our day to day lives when our loved one's failures are just plain annoying. This is a difficult kind of love. Loving when he's late from work and doesn't call: perseverance. Standing firm with a teen who's language is abusive: perseverance. Staying calm when you come home to a dirty kitchen and a sink full of dishes: perseverance. Reminding someone to do the same chore day after day: perseverance.

Sometimes when we've had enough ill treatments we get angry and we think, "I don't deserve this! I'm done! I've had enough!" James 5: 11 reminds us of Job, "As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job's perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy." If ever there was anyone who didn't deserve the ill treatment he got, it was Job. He was the best man on the planet, yet God allowed him to be tested. He lost everything, yet he "hypomeno." In the end his life was fully restored.

How do we persevere when life is getting the best of us and the ill treatments seem to much to take? Hebrews 12:2-3 gives us the answer, "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart." Endured is the word "hypomeno" in these verses. The joy set before Christ motivated Him to keep persevering the worst treatment known to men. That Joy was the salvation of you and me. We can persevere knowing that it is making us more like Christ and through his example we can endure. Through that endurance we can have hope for the salvation of those who we love.

Romans 5:3-5 says, "Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us."

If we persevere, it produces Godly character conforming more into the likeness of Jesus, and through that character we have a hope that will never disappoint us. Is enduring fun? No. Am I joyfully persevering the bad treatment of people who are supposed to love me? No. But God promises that by doing so He will pour out His love into our hearts and we will have a hope which does not disappoint. I need that supernatural love to pour out when I have no more love of my own to give. I can have hope that in the end, it will be worth it. I won't be disappointed that I've persevered.

Today I will tie on my apron and persevere. God's love will be poured into my heart and I will joyfully pour His love out on others.